Knowledge, Diversity and Performance in European Higher Education
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Knowledge, Diversity and Performance in European Higher Education

A Changing Landscape

Edited by Andrea Bonaccorsi

For the first time, data on individual European higher education institutions (rather than data aggregated at the country level) is used in order to examine a wide range of issues that are both theoretically challenging and relevant from policy-making and societal perspectives. The contributors integrate statistics on universities and colleges with other sources of information such as patents, start-up firms and bibliometric data, and employ rigorous empirical methods to address a range of key questions, including: what is the role of non-university tertiary education, such as vocational training? How important is the private sector? Are European universities internationalized? Are they efficient from the point of view of costs and educational output? Are there pure research universities in Europe? How do universities contribute to economic growth?
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Chapter 7: How universities contribute to the creation of knowledge-intensive firms: detailed evidence on the Italian case

Andrea Bonaccorsi, Massimo G. Colombo, Massimiliano Guerini and Cristina Rossi Lamastra


Scholars agree that knowledge-intensive firms (hereafter: KIFs) crucially contribute to the growth of economic systems, since they promote technological change, open new innovation routes and are important sources of new employment (Rothwell and Zegvel, 1982; Oakey, 1991; Baptista et al., 2008). In particular, these firms play a central role in spawning economic advances, generating positive effects on regional growth (Audretsch and Keilbach, 2004, 2005; for a study on the Italian context see also Piergiovanni et al., 2012). However, empirical evidence has documented large and persistent differences in new KIFs creation across geographical areas (see, for example, Fritsch and Falck, 2007; Piva et al., 2011). It is therefore of both scientific interest and policy relevance to investigate the origins of this geographical heterogeneity. A better understanding of the determinants of new KIFs creation at the local level contributes to design better policies to support these firms and, ultimately, regional development. Conventional wisdom suggests that KIFs have knowledge as their primary value-creating asset. Typical examples of KIFs are indeed R & D laboratories, high-tech companies, law and accounting firms, management, engineering and computer consultancy companies (Alvesson, 1995). Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that new KIFs creation in a geographical area depends on the availability of knowledge in that area. In turn, local knowledge availability is positively related to the presence of universities, which may favour the generation and exploitation of new entrepreneurial opportunities at the local level (Audretsch and Lehmann, 2005).

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